Mentoring in LibraryLand: The Guru

Over on my personal blog, where I have been participating in the LINT #blogeverydayofjune challenge, a couple of people wondered how I had been successful in finding a mentor. My answer is simple: ask.

The more in-depth answer is, of course, more complex. I am quite active in ALIA, and it has been the glue that has held my professional life together over the last few years, as I’ve worked in different cities (and countries!), jobs and sectors that haven’t always been in LibraryLand, or provided me with everything I need professionally.

I decided that I needed more of a strategic plan for the next section of my professional life, so I spoke to an ALIA staff member, whom I have worked with as an ALIA volunteer for over two years, and whom I trust. She knows a lot of people in the sector and said she’d think about who might be available, and within a week I had a name. You don’t have to know someone in ALIA to find a mentor though – the Local Liaison Officers in your state might be able to help you. Alternatively, you could ask your lecturers, boss, or a senior professional you know, to recommend someone. Or there might be someone you know through work or other professional activities who you could approach directly. There might even be a mentoring program in your state or through your university you could take advantage of.

If you’re not sure about the next steps to take once you have a name, here’s a shot breakdown of what I did. I haven’t asked my mentor if they are OK with our burgeoning relationship becoming public, so at this point I’ll just say that they are high profile in the profession, and the leader of a library service. So, in many ways, where I want to be in the long-term.

I emailed the object of my mentoring affections the following:

Dear retracted

I’ve been talking to retracted about the next step in my career, and now that I’ve returned to Qld and am settling back into life in Brisbane and in academic libraries, I really feel like it’s time to start thinking about the future, and where I’m going professionally. I know that as retracted and running retracted Library you’re very busy but I was wondering if you would have any time to consider a mentoring relationship with me? I haven’t had a formal mentor for some time, and think I would really benefit from one. As you’re based in retracted I would think it would mostly be via phone, however if you ever make it to Brisbane I would love some face time 🙂

I understand if you don’t have time, but if you could let me know either way that would be great.


I received this response:

I’m out of of the office today, 3 June, If its urgent please contact…

Oh no! They will be too busy, for sure! Then a couple of days later:

I’d be happy to give mentoring a go.

Yes we will need to do most of it by distance (phone, email, Skype) however I do visit Brisbane reasonably often so could meet f2f at times.

Its probably best if we can arrange a time to discuss how we would like this to operate.

Over to you.

After a few emails ascertaining a date and time, we had our first session earlier this week via the phone. We spoke for about half an hour, where I gave my mentor a brief rundown of my immediate history, and sent them my CV. We then discussed career mapping. I haven’t done a structured career plan, so my mentor suggested that I do so, based on something I could find quite easily on the internet. They suggested that I include in personal goals (family) and ALIA or other professional activities as well as work goals.

I’ve found some mind-maping resources on-line, so I’ll have a look and a think and a mind-map before we next talk in a fortnight. There’s also the ALIA Career Development Kit which I’ve been meaning to do for ages but was waiting for the “right time” in my career to put the time and effort into it. Now it’s a new professional development year it might just be the right time!

Now I’ll turn it over to you: have you got any tips for finding a mentor? Would an ALIA mentoring scheme like conference mentoring (NGAC will be running a trial of this scheme at ALIA Information Online 2011, stay tuned for more information!), or a career mentoring scheme, be something you would use?

If you have any questions or would like to talk to me off-list, please email me at


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